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Forget Fair Use, Pubs Want Ad Nets To Pay For "Fair Syndication" Of Their Content

This story was written by Tameka Kee.
"If you can't beat 'emmake money off of them." That seems to be the thinking behind the Fair Syndication Consortium, a group of online publishers that have partnered with tech firm Attributor to help tackle the hot-button issues of content scraping, copyrights and dwindling ad revenues. The Consortium's goal is to help publishers get a cut of the ad revenues generated by sites that repurpose their contentand the group wants to work directly with the networks that serve the ads to do it.

"What we are saying is maybe there is a middle ground," Attributor CEO Jim Pitkow told the Journal. "If people are taking full copies of your contentwhy don't you take a revenue share?"

Redwood City, Calif.-based Attributor currently works with companies like the AP, the Financial Times, and CondeNet to electronically fingerprint and track their text, audio and video content; if it's being used inappropriately, the publishers can request a takedown or try to get the other site to split the revenues. The Consortium, which includes Reuters and Politicobut not the APis trying to get around the need for publisher-to-publisher contact; Attributor would just go to the offending site's ad network directly and petition it for a cut of the revenues.

It's a more cooperative solution than using lawsuits or otherwise trying to "protect" contentit's also more proactive than trying to deal with individual scraper sites, since the owners can be unresponsive, even to legal threatsbut there are some hurdles the Consortium would have to clear. First, of course, is getting the ad networks to buy in. Pitkow told the Journal that the group was in talks with a number of "major" ad nets, but none had signed a partnership.

Find out the other challenges, as well as how much money could be at stake, after the jump.

Then, there's the fact that many sites use multiple ad networks, so tracking which network served a given ad on a particular page could get complicated; networks would also have to redraft their publisher contracts to account for these new revenue-sharing termsand there's no telling whether the publishers would agree. There's also the blurry line between content scraping, linking, republishing and fair use, policies even reputable sites like AllThingsD have struggled to define.

Still, the consensus is that publishers need to do something to combat rogue sites from scraping and monetizing their content. According to TechCrunch, Attributor estimates that spam blogs and content scraping sites could be generating between $13 million and $51 million worth of ad revenue per year, and that's just from feeding on a selection of about two dozen high-profile publishers.


By Tameka Kee

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